WORDS Penelope Hall IMAGES Brett Boardman
Hidden within the openness of an undeniably magnificent Australian landscape, there can be found enchanting leafy country roads as time sits resting.
As you wander you may see the odd Sir Christopher Wren inspired church and place names such as Stowe, Boston, New Plymouth. This could be England or New England of the USA but this borrowed heritage is found right there in Armidale, New England in New South Wales. Nestled in amongst it all is Armidale House; a heritage listed 4 bedroom cottage.
Late 19th century homes, as compelling as they can be, unless new life is breathed into the weave of the sometimes austere fabric of these beautiful structures, are unable to respond to a growing modern day family requiring larger more practicable, open and light filled spaces.
Charged with awakening Armidale House from its 100+ years dream state, while maintaining profound respect of its architectural roots, is Ben Mitchell and Simon Addinall of Those Architects in New South Wales, Australia.
A mindful and considerate easing of the existing structure into the 21st century was required to transform this cottage into a larger, light filled home. More space, more flexibility, a better flow and greater capacity for family and entertaining.
Movement underlies Ben and Simon’s approach to design so take great care to understand the way people walk through, around and up and down within their own space. This is paramount to understanding how the immediate environment is experienced and the scope that is possible.
“Our focus in the redesign” writes Ben, “was the visual and circulatory connection between the public spaces and the back yard”. The deliberate elevation at the rear sits it ‘above’ the landscape to provide a visual connection to the surrounding habitation, large trees and the hills beyond. He goes on to say “We have used materials and colours throughout to further reflect this connection and location”.
The bold and unapologetic construct of the new pavilion sanctions the outdoors to draw the new kitchen, living and dining areas ever outward, allowing the residents to experience this vast and spacial unification of their internal and external environments, cleverly facilitated by the large wraparound deck.
With such immensity and drama of the ever present sky it dominates the senses, and as Those Architects have written “we used the podium form to mediate the built form in between the ground plain and the vast sky, effectively using the architecture to intensify this connection”.
An intelligent response was required to address the asthetic demands of both eras and part of the solution to the structural grafting of new to old was the result of the adept use of materials. Platforming off the existing traditional horizontal timber weatherboards, they simply rotated the cladding orientation 90 degrees and inverted the colour scheme. It is this type of subtle detailing that distinguishes the two forms beautifully while still enabling this Australian cottage to maintain the dignity of its long standing heritage status.
Ben tells me that it is important to avoid choosing size over beautiful detailing and materials but instead allow light, space, design and materials to determine how you feel in a space. Natural timbers (mostly sourced locally in the Armidale region) as well as stone, metal and concrete lent themselves perfectly to the interiors as they were robust, natural and texturally interesting for the senses with large concrete tiles, while practical, played a pivotal role in connecting the interior seamlessly through to the deck. Working with local landscapers, the garden of deciduous, native and evergreen trees intensify the natural habitat including pittosporum silver sheen evergreens against the building. Visitors are led on a journey, where the design compels them to stop and take pause to make the connection with the garden and the architecture.
The long standing cottage is now undergoing the next phase of development with focus on drawing light into the interior of the existing structure. Already a 25sqm area has been converted into a secondary living room, further addressing the need for multifaceted and flexible living. Further reconfiguration will see a relocation of the master bedroom, walk-in robe and ensuite a study and storage solutions in the four bedrooms.
Already, the private rooms of the cottage and the public more integrated areas of the extension are defined but stay connected from the entry foyer being the common access point.
Harmony defines the asthestic resolution of this build and in keeping with the competence of the design, spacially, it has delivered to their clients a home they love to live in. They have the best of both worlds enjoying the sounds of children running and laughing through a beautiful light filled home finally unhindered by compartmentalised spaces of a bygone era.
A full commitment to the care and longevity of this cottage is proven. The owners are investing the time and money required to achieve great design which is advice architect Ben wants people to consider for their own renovations. “The best investment you will ever make is in good architecture – everything flows from there”. Armidale, New England in New South Wales is a better place for that philosophy.
With thanks to Ben Mitchell of Those Architects.
This article by Penelope Hall is featured in Issue 023 of Renovate Magazine. To find out how to create the renovation of your dreams click here.